Chinese New Year Songs of Praise


Chinese New Year

Aled Jones visits London's Chinatown and introduces hymns from St Martin-in-the-Fields, with a performance by cellists Julian Lloyd Webber and his wife Jiaxin.


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CHINESE MUSIC

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Xin Nian Kuair Le - that's Happy New Year in Chinese.

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As the year of the horse begins, I'm in London,

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home to Britain's largest Chinese population.

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About 10% percent of the UK's Chinese citizens are Christians.

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Right next door to London's bustling Chinatown is the church of St Martin-in-the-Fields.

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A church where, for decades, East and West have met.

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So, what better time than Chinese New Year to celebrate

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the 50th anniversary of St Martin's Chinese congregation?

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Tonight's hymns are sung by congregations gathered in St Martin's

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and by the church's English and Chinese choirs.

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There's a special Songs Of Praise performance of sacred music

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by husband and wife cello duo, Julian and Jiaxin Lloyd Webber.

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The Chinese New Year is no different between Christian and non-Christian.

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Chinese New Year is very important for Chinese people to celebrate.

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For most it's like a family get-together

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so it's as important as Christmas for Western people.

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Chinese New Year actually is a very different way of calculating the time,

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so Chinese New Year is the beginning of the lunar year.

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The Chinese New Year means family will gather together

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to celebrate the beginning of the spring.

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Whether you're celebrating spring, Candlemas or Chinese New Year,

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there's a welcome for all at the landmark church on Trafalgar Square.

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As well as its many outreach missions,

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St Martin's is a church famous for its music, so let's now join

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members of both its English and Chinese speaking congregations

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reminding Christians all over the world to raise their voices in song.

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The first recorded Chinese visitor to Britain was Christian convert

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and Jesuit priest, Michael Alfonsus Shen Fu-Tsung in 1685.

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In 1805, it required an act of Parliament for a Chinese man to become a British citizen,

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making his oath of allegiance by smashing a china saucer

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to symbolise breaking with his old country.

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Many of the Chinese who came here as immigrants in the mid-20th century

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were from the then British colony of Hong Kong

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and St Martin's was one of the first churches to welcome them.

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St Martin's is not just about helping people out

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when they are on the underside of life.

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It's about sharing their enjoyment across all sorts of cultures

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and diverse forms of expression.

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The Chinese are very much part of that tradition.

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They run their own life,

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they run their own mission and we try to give them the support to do that.

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The Chinese congregation in St Martin's is very, very special

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because there are the old and the young

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and they gather together to celebrate their 50th anniversary.

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St Martin's is one of the earliest Chinese congregations in London.

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It started in the '60s because the church is not far away from Chinatown

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which is home for the Hong Kong community.

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Most of them work in restaurants or takeaways

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and most of them do not finish until one or two in the morning,

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or sometimes not even until three o'clock before they go to bed.

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Owing to these unsocial working hours,

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the Chinese service at St Martin's has traditionally been held in the afternoon

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to allow the worshippers a well-earned lie in before church.

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Later in the '70s, we started rapidly growing into a congregation

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with around 300 people here.

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Most of them were not Christian but they came here just for comfort and for fellowship.

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Later they went to the service and then became Christians.

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The charity that runs the Chinese community centre

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is based in the new development underneath St Martin's.

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It's called the Bishop Ho Ming Wah Association.

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The name was given to Bishop Hall of Hong Kong by the Chinese people

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and means "he who understands the Chinese".

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It was the bishop who first sent the Reverend SY Lee over to St Martin's in the mid-1960s

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to start ministering to the Chinese.

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The Lee family are still connected with the church.

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I think Grandfather will probably smile down on us!

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But he would be happy that we have done our best

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and have developed with society's needs.

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It is essentially the elderly, they come to the charity

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and they come here for luncheons and socialising and their t'ai chi classes.

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There are English classes for everybody.

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Also there's Chinese classes for the younger generation, including myself.

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Basically, I've been part of St Martin's for my whole life

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because my parents got married there

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and I was baptised with my sister

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and then confirmed there and I have been there ever since.

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I worship there every Sunday.

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For a second-generation Chinese person like myself,

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what's important has been the link to the Chinese culture and the language

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because the service is conducted in both Cantonese and English.

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Sometimes, if you miss something in one language, you can catch it in the other.

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At St Martin's, seeing so many people of different cultures and languages coming together,

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it makes you feel that we are all part of one family and in one faith and believing in one God.

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Also that there are no barriers to our faith.

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Christians may have visited China as early as the 7th century

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but, between the 13th and 16th centuries, first Franciscan and Dominican Friars

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and then the Jesuits preached the gospel to the Chinese.

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Christians were, at times, the Emperor's favourites,

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or at least tolerated, but sometimes they were persecuted.

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By the early 1800s,

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the first Protestant missionaries arrived in China.

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Rev Robert Morrison was the first to translate the Bible into Chinese.

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But now, many Chinese Christians are bringing the good news

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of Christianity back to the West.

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I am a full-time missionary,

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working with Chinese Overseas Christian Mission.

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This mission was founded

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in 1950 with the vision to bring the good news of Jesus Christ

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to the Chinese people living in the UK and Europe.

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'We started to realise that the harvest today actually was the seeds

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'sown by those early missionaries going to China sacrificially,

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'giving and sharing the love of Jesus Christ with so many Chinese people.

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'So, we just felt like now it is the time for us to pay the debt back.'

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Our Chinese churches in the UK and Europe usually view Chinese New Year

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as a good time to do evangelistic work because it is a good time

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to invite people around for celebration in the church with the church family.

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We will be also able to not only physically be in union with your family members on the Earth

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but actually help people to think about the reunion with the Father in heaven.

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The Christian faith appeals to me not as a religion or as an idea

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but basically it is about a relationship.

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I see this as an opportunity to bring this faith,

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this faith in Jesus Christ, to them, introduce them to the love of Christ

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so that they can find the purpose of their life in Christ.

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A lot of people are just after material things.

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They think the wealthier you are, the richer you are, the better you are.

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People are busy with chasing after all this wealth, success and fame,

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and they don't have enough room to think about some deeper and bigger questions in their lives.

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This beautiful church takes its name

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from the 4th-century saint Martin of Tours.

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On a cold winter's day, St Martin, a Roman soldier,

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cut his cloak in half to share with a stranger who appeared as a beggar.

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That night, the stranger returned to him in a dream

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as Christ wearing the half cloak saying,

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"For as much as you did it for the least of these, you did it for me."

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The spirit of this great saint lives on.

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From the earliest times, St Martin-in-the-Fields

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has helped the needy, the homeless, and welcomed the stranger.

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In fact, since the early 20th century,

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it's been known as the church of the ever-open door.

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The famous vicar Dick Sheppard started St Martin's mission

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to the homeless during World War I

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by opening the church to soldiers on their way to the front.

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Sheppard later opened the doors to the world

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when he broadcast the very first church service on the BBC,

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from here, 90 years ago.

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And now, the Chinese congregation,

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who were invited to share this church 50 years ago,

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are celebrating another fulfilment of Christ's words.

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"I was a stranger and you welcomed me."

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Bible Society and other Christian missions estimate

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that, in today's China, the world's most populous country,

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there may be as many as 200 million Christians.

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But the Communist Party, who have ruled since 1949,

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claim that there are fewer than 20 million.

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In the 1960s and '70s, during the Cultural Revolution,

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all religions were forbidden.

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But religious activity, restricted to places of worship only,

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has been officially tolerated by the atheist state

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for the last few decades

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and Chinese Christianity is rapidly becoming

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the world's fastest-growing faith.

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Soprano Chen Wang was brought up atheist,

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but became a Christian as a student in the UK.

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At the beginning of the study time, I was quite lonely and homesick

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and I, soon, I met the Christian students and friends

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and I went to church

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and they are really loving and giving and generous.

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I was curious where this love comes from.

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And then, I want to find out,

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so I just started to attend their Bible Study

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and did lots of activities with them

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and then, I find out God is the source of love.

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We are all made in image of God,

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so no matter I'm Chinese or you're English or, you know,

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there are different nationalities,

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we're all naturally attracted to our creator.

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God is love and he is eternal

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and he has a plan for everyone.

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And for me, it really teaches me

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that it is my responsibility to really guard my gifts well

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and, as God gave me the singing voice,

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and to develop it, to really discipline myself

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so in order to...I can use it well

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and to serve him and serve people.

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World-renowned cellist Julian Lloyd Webber is married to Jiaxin,

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who's from a Chinese Christian family.

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Touring as a cello duo,

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the couple illustrates how classical music can be a channel

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for international relations.

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All countries are very keen to develop business

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and trade with China, but it shouldn't only be about that.

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It's very important, I think, to have cultural links as well

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and I think music is really the ultimate link

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between a mind of a composer and going through the performer

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and then going on and bringing that to an audience,

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and there's something very spiritual about the whole process.

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I think at your best moments of playing,

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you do feel that there's something almost taking you over.

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And what does it feel like, you know,

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playing this religious music together?

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Oh, definitely, I feel more calm and more peaceful.

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My parents are both religious, so I'm quite familiar with that

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so, to me, it's quite a close feeling to me.

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Your father wanted to play the cello?

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He always wanted to be a musician,

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especially wanted to play cello, but at that time,

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because of the Cultural Revolution,

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they couldn't do any Western music,

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so that was his dream.

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So my dad really wanted me

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to be a musician,

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especially a cellist,

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so when I was six,

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he decided to take me to a teacher.

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I think it means to them a lot, because they see their dream

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kind of come true, because that was their dream.

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So especially when I was on stage

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and also when they listen to the CD we made,

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they're just so moved then, so... I'm sure they're very, very happy.

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I hope so.

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God, the holy Trinity, in your diversity we see

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the glory of difference, detail and delight.

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Send your spirit on the families of the nations

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that each in their particularity

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may reflect the detail of your son's incarnation in whose name we pray.

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Amen.

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St Martin's is famous for the practical Christianity at its heart.

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For its British and Chinese congregations,

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and the many tourists of all faiths and none

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who are welcomed through its door every day,

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this is so much more than just a beautiful and historic building.

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This church is made from living stones.

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Next week, David takes a nostalgic look at Sunday schools

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and hears how they've been enjoyed by every generation.

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Bill Kenwright explains why they're even responsible

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for Everton Football Club.

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Plus there's favourite Sunday school hymns

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sung by our School Choirs Of The Year.

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You won't want to miss it.

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Aled Jones visits London's Chinatown and introduces hymns from St Martin-in-the-Fields, a church with its own congregation of Chinese Christians, together with a performance by cellists Julian Lloyd Webber and his wife Jiaxin.


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